• Review: Saitek - X-55 Rhino HOTAS System

    X-55 Rhino HOTAS System

    Publisher: Saitek

    Review Author:
    Rohan Nair

    Suggested Price:
    $229.95

    Buy Here

    Saitek have made a new addition to their Pro Flight lineage of flight control systems with the release of their X-55 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. system. Hands On Throttle And Stick systems or HOTAS systems as they are known in virtual aviation parlance, in a manner, bridge the gap between entry level joysticks and yoke systems. HOTAS systems may be more suited for military jet jockeys or even rotorcraft fans but despite of this, it is commonplace for flight simmers to desire such systems to fly any type of aircraft. A casual flight simmer would eye a cost effective all round flight control system. One that he can use to fly anything from the diminutive Cub to the imposing 747. Perhaps a rotorcraft as well? If there is a niche on your desk for such a piece of hardware, Saitek claims that their X-55 can take residence there. Does it live up to what it claims to offer? Let us see.

    X-55 Rhino     X-55 Rhino     X-55 Rhino

    The X-55 has been around for more than a year now. The HOTAS system consists of two physically separate units: one for the control column and one for the throttle quadrant. Each unit has its own USB connector. The connectors are pretty long which allow for the units to be arranged with ease to your liking. Some noteworthy features are the adjustable LED backlighting, multiple hat switches, rotaries, toggle switches, dual throttles, a mouse nipple and lots of buttons. Another noteworthy feature and in my humble opinion, a rather neat one, is the ability to use the joystick with springs of different stiffness or even without one at all! Saitek have provided four unique springs to use with the X-55. The throttles have an adjustable resistance setting and a mode selector to provide three user customized modes of operation.

    Saitek have provided an exclusive software to configure the X-55 as per the needs of the user. The X-55 will work with most known flight simulators out there and on any operating system from Windows XP and upwards.

    Saitek have priced the X-55 at around $200 which I took delivery of in June 2014 and used it without much hassle on a Windows 7 64-bit system and a Windows 8.1 64-bit system on both USB2.0 and USB3.0 ports. I have used the X-55 primarily with FSX and for a very short amount of time with P3D and FS2004. With regards to the simulators, there were no compatibility issues.

    The X-55 arrived securely packaged and weighed slightly shy of 3 kilograms. There is no disk containing the drivers and software for the product so be sure to download the required files from Saitek's web site. Within the packaging, printed instructions to set up the X-55 can be found. I am aware that some users have encountered problems while setting up and using the X-55 with Windows 8/8.1. Fortunately, I did not encounter any such problems. However, I have added a link at the end of this review to a FAQ page for the X-55 which may provide solutions to common problems Windows 8/8.1 users may encounter. In the same page, you will find possible solutions to problems related to USB3.0 ports too.

    X-55 Rhino     X-55 Rhino     X-55 Rhino

    The X-55 looks like it was taken straight out of the cockpit of a modern military jet. Its design bears a fair resemblance to their force sensing X-65F which was reviewed here a few years back. Needless to say, the X-55 is not force sensing and neither does it sport force feedback. However, it does claim to offer precision control for any kind of aircraft with its Hall Effect sensors.

    The pictures in this review should give you an idea of the dimensions of the X-55. For your reference, the laptop pictured has a screen size of 15.6". Both throttle quadrant and stick are largely made of plastic which has been engineered well as the build is sturdy. The units have permanent labels for almost all buttons, toggle switches and rotaries. On the base of the throttle quadrant, the labels are back lit by green LEDs. The stick sports LEDs underneath the hat switches which offer minimal illumination even in darkness. A few decals decorate the base for each unit. As mentioned earlier, both units feature a fairly large number of buttons, toggle switches and rotaries. The stick can detached from its base so that the spring may be changed. The springs offered by Saitek are color coded as green, blue, yellow and red with the ordering of the colors corresponding to decreasing stiffness of the spring.

    Having a good joystick is the key to smooth and controlled flight. After all, we have amusement parks for rollercoaster rides. Unless of course, you plan on giving your unsuspecting virtual passengers relief from the contents of their stomach. The X-55 is not an ambidextrous HOTAS system. Much like all real world HOTAS set ups, the X-55 is more suited for the right handed virtual pilot. Despite of this, the joystick is tall enough to support a large sized hand. An adequately sized pad near the bottom of the stick will give your hand a spot to rest. Your thumb, however, will not find a place to rest without being perched atop a button or a hat switch. Take a look at a picture of the front face of the stick and you will see what I mean.

    X-55 Rhino     X-55 Rhino     X-55 Rhino

    Exercise caution while you make large and/or sudden movements of the stick. More than once, I have accidentally got the pitch trim out of its comfort zone and deployed the gear while doing 250 knots. There is a lot that can be done with the stick apart from merely controlling the aircraft. Three hat switches, one of which is recognized by the sim as a POV controller, a trigger, an extra button on the top front face, another button on the left side where your thumb would probably like to rest, another button behind the stick at its bottom and yet another pull-button sticking out away from you at the back of the stick provide for a sizeable number of assignments to be made. Whether you want to fire your missiles, push a button to speak to a controller, or just engage your autopilot, the X-55 joystick seems to have something for all of it.


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